As an employee in North Carolina, an at-will employment state, you generally have the right to quit your job at any time for any reason. However, the flip side is that employers also generally have the right to terminate an employee for any reason, as long as the reason is legal. Legal reasons for termination of an employee may include:
- Criminal activity or unethical behavior
- Poor fit
- Violation of company policy
- Poor job performance
- Budget cuts
What constitutes an unlawful termination?
If an employer fires an employee for an unlawful reason, the terminated employee may file a wrongful termination lawsuit against their former employer. If an employer fired you under the following conditions, you may be able to prove that your termination was wrongful.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are legally prohibited from discriminating against employees based on protected characteristics. This means that they cannot terminate your employment because of your membership in a protected class (e.g., gender, race, religion, age).
An employer cannot terminate an employee for retaliatory reasons. Retaliation occurs when an employer takes negative action against an employee for engaging in a protected activity (e.g., taking FMLA leave, participating in an EEOC investigation, whistleblowing).
Breach of contract
An employment contract may require that an employee only be fired ‘for cause.’ In such cases, firing an employee without a good reason would be a violation of an employment contract.
If you were wrongfully terminated, an attorney specializing in employment law can help protect your employee rights by filing a claim against your former employer.